Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stranger on a Plane

Last Thursday I had plans to fly to Seattle to see my family over the weekend. It was a surprise for my little brother who lives in California and was visiting with his new wife and 13 year old daughter. There had only been a chance of snow in the forecast... we drove from Colorado Springs to Denver in blizzard conditions. And I missed my flight.

Fortunately, if you arrive within two hours of your departure time the airline will put you on another flight. My flight was for 8 am with the following flights being at noon, 6 pm and 9 pm. All of the flights were fully booked until 9 pm so I was booked on that flight and then went to the gate for the noon flight on standby. It was not looking good. After most of the people had boarded I went up to the desk to see what my chances were. There was a man there before me also trying to get on standby and when the airline employee came back saying there was one seat he graciously gave it to me.

I was not really paying attention to the seat numbers when I was asked by an attendant what my seat assignment was. I knew I was seated in an exit aisle and she was standing where the one open seat was so I told her I was there. We laughed and I sat down. A couple minutes later the man that was also waiting came by and sat in the seat behind me. I was so glad to see that he made it on board and told him so. Then another person came along and said that he was in their seat... the nice man's ticket had my seat number on it and it turned out that I was in the next row forward in the window seat (the exit seats were two aisles on that large plane). So, I got my things and moved.

As I always do, when the plane began to taxi down the runway, I pulled out my chewing gum and offered some to my seatmates. The man next to me declined but we struck up a conversation. And we talked the entire flight.

He was a young man. A Canadian originally from Jamaica. He was a missionary that has been to many places throughout the world and lived the last two years in Australia. I did not ask his age but I am guessing he's in his mid twenties.

Have you ever met someone and instantly connected with them?

We talked about so many things... His mother works with special needs kids. We talked about missions. I told him about my voice. Then... he told me why he was in Colorado. He was at an alternative clinic... he has cancer and was given 8 months to live.

It was as if we were in a very private bubble and he opened his heart. His family and friends are struggling with why God would allow this in his life and he feels pressure to make them all feel better about what is happening to him. He trusts God but there are days when he struggles but doesn't feel he can let others see that. There has been some success with the treatment he's had but his doctor is only "cautiously optimistic". He told me he put everything on hold when he got the diagnosis (which interestingly came about through a toothache) but that now he wants to return to Australia to finish up some things... but that his family doesn't want him to. They are worried about him and want him close. A friend, who happens to be a girl, had flown from Ontario, Canada to British Columbia where he lives to see him and he'd be seeing her later that night. He obviously has feelings for her. He talked about his wanting to get married and have children...

Oh the heartache.

The eye contact we maintained throughout our conversation was quite unusual and made it all that much more intimate. The sincerity and pain that I saw in his eyes moved me.

I told him that none of us know when our life here on earth will end and to LIVE while God gives him breath. You can't hold yourself back from love and life... and just wait to die. He then asked if that was fair. I told him yes.

And I think about him every day.

10 comments:

Laura~peach~ said...

hugs, prayers for him, and what a wonderful experience.

Sandi McBride said...

You are such a good person, you spoke wisely and well. God put you there for a reason, that wrong seat thing you know...He knew your heart was right and that your words would carry far and deep.
Caroline (from One Cat Shy of Crazy

Paul Mitchell said...

I had virtually the same thing happen once flying back from Chicago. I sat next to a recent college graduate that was flying to Jacktroit to hook up with some missionaries to go to South America for a year. Plus, he was getting married before he left.

It was his first time to fly, too. I gave him the window seat. He ooo'ed and ah'd the whole flight. I smiled for two weeks. I couldn't leave the house for fear of someone seeing me doing it.

Melody said...

I hope that your advice gave him the confidence he needed to make his feelings known to that girl.

What a sad, sad story. I will pray for him and all in his life. I hope he gets more than 8 months.

Kathy said...

oh.... so sad. I wonder if most people would want to know how long their lives on Earth will be. I think I would not want to know. And you know that old saying, "live everyday like it's your last?" Well it seems as though so many stop 'living', when in your young friend's situation. CB, I think you gave very wise advice and I think you were quite a blessing to him, as I believe you feel he was to you.

SQP said...

Wow. That was very powerful. You write beautifully.

Karen Deborah said...

wow and that my friend is a divine encounter. I pray for God to supernaturally heal him!

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Joint Replacement said...

Hm sometimes you do feel like someone else is pulling the strings don't you? Anyway take care!

Sue said...

I'm sure he must have felt a lot of comfort in the very short time he spent with you.